Updated, 4:25 p.m.: Prosecutor gives news conference
Thirteen people have been charged in the hazing death of a Florida A&M University band drum major last November, a prosecutor said on Wednesday. Eleven of the 13 face a third-degree felony charge of hazing resulting in death.
Robert Champion, 26, was found aboard a charter bus parked in Orlando after he was reportedly beaten so badly that he was left with internal bleeding, which caused him to go into shock and die, the county medical examiner’s office said at the time.
The case made national news, and the famed 375-member band was suspended. Earlier this year, Champion’s parents said he may have been targeted for hazing because he had taken a public stance against the practice, according to the Root.
In Florida, hazing involving bodily injury is a third-degree felony, which carries a maximum sentence of nearly six years in prison, the Associated Press reported.The AP quoted Champion’s mother, Pam, as saying that while she was glad people would be tried for her son’s killing, she wanted the charges to be tougher.
“I thought it should send a harsher message,” she told The Associated Press.
After Champion’s death, university officials put the band on indefinite suspension and set up a task force to investigate the tradition of hazing in the band and to find ways to stem it. At the time some critics said that the school should have shut down the band.
. The AP reported that within the FAMU marching band, students were hazed when they tried to enter social groups of band members to avoid being ostracized. Entry into those groups required agreeing to undergo hazing.
A lawsuit filed by Champion’s family against the company that owns the bus on which he allegedly was hazed contends that a driver hired by the company did not help him and stood outside while he was being attacked.
The AP quoted Ray Land, the owner of Fabulous Coach Lines, as denying that anybody working for the company knew about the hazing, and saying that if someone did know, “we would not have let it happen.”
The lawsuit alleges that two kinds of hazing took place on the bus. The AP said:
“In the first, pledges of a band clique known as "Bus C" ran from the front to the back of the bus while other band members slapped, kicked and hit them. A pledge who fell was stomped and dragged to the front of the bus to run again.
“In a ritual known as ‘the hot seat,’ a pillow case was placed over the pledge's nose and mouth while the pledge was forced to answer questions. If a pledge got a right answer, the pillow case was removed briefly; a pledge with a wrong answer was given another question without a chance to take a breath, the lawsuit said.”
In 1998, Tallahassee police opened a probe into a hazing incident in which a band member was hit with paddles more than 300 times as part of an initiation into the clarinet section, the Associated Press said. The investigation was later closed, with authorities saying that the band member who was assaulted had agreed to the hazing.
In 1989, the school disciplined eight band members who allegedly held a student against his will and beat his head with their elbows. The eight were charged with battery and jailed, but the charges were later dropped.
The Marching 100 has performed at several Super Bowls and represented the United States at the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution in Paris.
The band’s Web site says the Marching 100 has pioneered at least 30 techniques that high school and collegiate marching band programs across the country have adopted.
Follow The Answer Sheet every day by bookmarking www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet.